Robert Of Gloucester chronicle

Scope and Content

Manuscript volume containing a verse chronicle of the history of England from the legendary Brut up to 1272, [1440], most notably focusing on the barons' rebellion led by Simon de Montfort during the reign of King Henry III. The chronicle is written in rhymed couplets in a south-west Midland dialect, and was copied in a good semi-cursive hand by two, or possibly three, scribes. The chronicle is known in two versions, of which this is the shorter; in the longer version there is a reference to the darkness which fell on the surrounding country following the Battle of Evesham (Aug 1265), and this, as well as local knowledge of the area, has led to the author being traditionally named 'Robert of Gloucester'. On the verso of the second fly-leaf there is a 'Precepts in -ly' (moral or religious counsels) entitled 'A spesiall glasse to loke in daily', which is dated at Holy Rode on 14 Sep 1516. It was possibly written by Richard Whitford (1476-1542), who was chaplain to William Blount, 4th Baron Mountjoy, and later to Richard Fox, Bishop of Winchester, afterwards becoming a monk at Syon Monastery, Isleworth, until the Dissolution. It is unclear if Whitford also undertook the copying of the Richard of Gloucester chronicle. Folio 147 contains 25 lines of miscellaneous Latin, including a section relating to the prophecies of Merlin.

Administrative / Biographical History

Robert of Gloucester (fl 1260-1300) is only known through his vernacular chronicle of English history. It is thought that he may have been a monk of Gloucester.


Single item

Access Information

Access to this collection is unrestricted for the purpose of private study and personal research within the supervised environment and restrictions of the Library's Palaeography Room. Uncatalogued material may not be seen. Please contact the University Archivist for details.

Acquisition Information

Bought from Quaritch in 1950.

Other Finding Aids

Collection level description. See also N. R. Ker, Medieval manuscripts in British libraries: I, London (1969).

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Manuscript folio. Written on vellum. Rubricated initials, with decoration including ink drawings in the margins, mainly grotesque heads, animals and fish. The capital letter beginning every other line of verse is filled with yellow. The vellum binding dates from the mid-nineteenth century. The manuscript has late medieval foliation on ff 1-146, with f 16 missed out.

Archivist's Note

Compiled by Sarah Aitchison as part of the RSLP AIM25 Project.

Separated Material

There are known to exist eleven more or less complete manuscripts of the chronicle, three fragments and one garbled version. Aside from the University of London manuscript, the other complete versions are held by the Huntington Library in California; the British Museum, London; the Bodleian Library, Oxford University; Cambridge University Library; Trinity College, Cambridge University; and Glasgow University.

Conditions Governing Use

Copies may be made, subject to the condition of the original. Copying must be undertaken by the Palaeography Room staff, who will need a minimum of 24 hours to process requests.

Custodial History

The manuscript was owned by William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley (1520-1598), whose library passed to his great-grandaughter, Lady Diana Cecil. When she died without issue, the library was inherited by her step-son, Robert, 2nd Earl of Elgin and 1st Earl of Ailesbury (d 1685). The library was sold on 20 Nov 1687, and the chronicle was purchased by Sir Thomas Mostyn. It bears the bookplate of Sir Roger Mostyn, 3rd Baronet (d 1739), and a mid-nineteenth century book label of the Gloddaeth Library. In 1870-1874, the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts examined the Mostyn manuscripts and published a full catalogue (Fourth Report, Part I, 1874). The manuscript was bought for Sir R Leicester Harmsworth at the Mostyn sale, Sotheby's, 3 Jul 1920. It was then part of the Sotheby's Leicester Harmsworth sale, 15 Oct 1945, where it was bought by Quaritch.


Further information concerning the manuscript may be found in J. H. P. Pafford, 'University of London Library MS 278, Robert of Gloucester's Chronicle', Studies presented to Sir Hilary Jenkinson (Oxford University Press, London, 1957).